We understand how unsettling the sensation of your jaw muscles seizing up must be. But do not fear it, there are many reasons why your jaw may be locked, and in most cases, the causes are temporary.
Digging In Deeper – What Does It Mean To Have A locked Jaw?
When your jaw starts to lock, it affects the entire mouth, causing painful symptoms that are felt on both sides of the face. Here are some common indicators to look out for
1. Crunching or clicking sounds when opening or closing your mouth.
2. Constant tension in the facial muscles, making everyday tasks like chewing or speaking uncomfortable.
3. Ear pain, even when at rest. This happens as the locked jaw puts strain on the nearby structures.
4. Limited range of motion in closing the jaw.
5. Asymmetrical opening of the mouth, making it difficult to perform basic oral functions.
Locked Jaw – Causes
The main reasons for this issue are
- Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders
Inflammation of the soft tissues surrounding the jaw, resulting in a lock situation. TMJ is the joint that interlinks your jawbone to your skull, jams and causes pain, headaches, and clicking or popping sounds when moving.
- Trigeminal Nerve Injury
Mechanical trauma to the jaw or dental treatments performed carelessly can lead to injury of the trigeminal nerve. This nerve controls the movement of facial muscles and can contribute to the development of lock jaw.
- Abnormal Bite
An impaired bite, or impaired occlusion, can lead to compensatory contractions of the jaw muscles. The repeated increase in muscle tone puts extra strain on the temporomandibular joint, eventually resulting in a mouth lock.
- Teeth Grinding or Bruxism
Bruxism is basically the involuntary grinding of teeth during sleep. This condition is a major precursor of TMJ disorder, causing the potential development of a locked jaw.
Two types – rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are common causes of cartilage damage in the TMJ- temporomandibular joint. As the joint degenerates, it may click or pop resulting in pain.
- Sleep Apnea
In cases of sleep apnea, the throat muscles relax, but the jaw clenches tightly to prevent blockage of the respiratory canal. This added stress results in TMJ problems and mouth lock.
While Tetanus is often associated with lockjaw, it’s crucial to understand that this bacterial infection is not the sole cause. Tetanus infections can trigger prolonged contractions of the jaw muscles.